How to Prepare for a Blood Donation

Whether you’re a first-time, second-time or veteran donor, donating blood can be daunting. You may have heard different stories of people feeling faint or having bruises on their arm after they’ve given blood. It’s important to remember that the staff at blood donation centers are well-trained and can safely execute the blood donation procedure.

To quell your blood donation worries, there are certain steps you can take before, during and after your experience so that you feel as good as gold following your donation.

Before Your Donation

Eligibility and Appointments

Secure an appointment and make sure you check the donation center’s eligibility requirements. Individuals cannot donate blood unless they pass all requirements posted by the center. It’s important to note that dependent on the blood program you plan to participate in, the eligibility requirements may differ. Even more reason to do your research before deciding to give blood.

An appointment is almost always necessary to donate blood. While some blood drives may accept walk-in donors, centers that offer various types of donations (such as plasma, leukocytes, etc.) will require an appointment. Plus, to maintain social distancing due to COVID-19, donor centers may want to space out donors through appointment slots. Thankfully, most locations have an appointment scheduling form on their websites to make securing an appointment a breeze.

What to Eat and What to Avoid

Eat the right types of foods. Certain foods can help reduce your risk for side-effects such as fatigue.

Foods to consider before donating blood include:1

  • Iron-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, organs (such as liver), eggs, vegetables, breads and cereals, fruits, and beans
  • Vitamin C which can be found in foods like cantaloupe, citrus fruits and juices, mango, pineapple, berries, watermelon, and tomatoes
  • Water or water-based hydration beverages

Foods to avoid before donating blood include:1

  • Alcohol
  • Fatty foods such as french fries or ice cream
  • Iron blockers which include coffee and tea, high-calcium foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt, and chocolate
  • Aspirin (but only for certain types of blood donations)

Get Your Beauty Rest

Get enough sleep! Ensuring that you’ve slept a full eight hours before your donation will result in a speedy recovery. The American Red Cross recommends at least eight hours of sleep the night before you donate blood.2

Make an Appointment

On the Day of Your Donation

Wear Comfortable Clothing

One of the “rookie mistakes” people can make prior to donating blood is to wear a tight long-sleeved shirt that is difficult to roll up! Be sure to wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing to ensure that the technician can easily access your arm.

Complete Your Paperwork

Be prepared to complete some forms. Many donation centers need their first-time donors to complete paperwork about medical history, current and recent medication use and any other factors that may impact donation. Make sure your medical history is top of mind on the day of your donation.

You may need to undergo an examination of vitals. A medical assistant or technician may check your vitals such as blood pressure and heart rate to ensure you’re fit to donate blood.

Get Ready to Relax

Bring reading material or headphones to listen to music or a podcast. Depending on the type of blood you’re donating, the process can take anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes and, if participating in leukapheresis, you may be at the center for upwards of five hours. Bringing along a book or some headphones may help the time pass. Check before you go, as some donor centers offer entertainment options, such as tablets with movie options if the donation will be long.

After the Procedure

Immediately following donation

Arguably, the best part of donating blood happens once your donation is complete, because you can eat! Most blood donation centers offer a snack table with offerings which are recommended to consume to replenish fluid and sugar levels after donating blood.

That Evening and the Next Few Days

Some Mayo Clinic-recommended tips for recovering from your blood donation include the following:3

  • Drink extra fluids
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for about five hours
  • If you feel lightheaded, lie down with your feet up until the feeling passes
  • Keep your bandage on and dry for the next five hours.
  • If you have bleeding after removing the bandage, put pressure on the site and raise your arm until the bleeding stops
  • If bruising occurs, apply a cold pack to the area periodically during the first 24 hours
  • Consider adding iron-rich foods to your diet to replace the iron lost with blood donation

If you’re feeling hesitant about donating blood or are unsure if becoming a blood donor is right for you, these five surprising, personal health benefits of donating blood may change your perspective.

Sign up to donate today or contact us at (833) GO-4-CURE to learn more.


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